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13 Jul, 2010 19:43

“Hope” won’t be coming to Gaza

The Libyan ship “Hope” that's carrying aid to Gaza is reportedly approaching the Egyptian port of El-Arish.

Earlier an Israeli vessel shadowed the ship to stop it from reaching the Palestinian territory and not defy the three-year Gaza blockade. That is despite a pledge to allow more supplies into the beleaguered region, and Israel's admission that it botched a raid on the Freedom flotilla in May, killing nine.

The Israelis have been in contact with the ship since it left Greece on Saturday. Those onboard say they received a warning from Israeli authorities that they would be intercepted if they tried to break the blockade of Gaza. The Israeli government denied these reports.

The Libyan ship is sparking a strong reaction on both sides in the region, especially over the Israeli government's intentions.

“The ship is clearly a humanitarian ship. The captain declared that he is ready to let Israeli soldiers come on board and check it thoroughly. So there is no danger whatsoever. The problem is not this or any other ship, the problem is the blockade. I support every effort of every humanitarian ship to break the blockade,” said Gideon Spiro, an Israeli journalist and human rights activist.

But Neil Lazarus, the director of an Israeli advocacy website and a former consultant for the Israeli Foreign Ministry is convinced the move is just a Libyan publicity stunt:

“This is a country which killed over 1,200 prisoners – lined them up and shot them. And this is the country which is talking about human rights. The real issue is Hamas – a terrorist organization that took control of the Gaza Strip,” he said.

Israeli-based journalist and Middle East expert James Marlow says the best way to resolve the situation is for the Libyan ship to head for an Israeli port.

“The solution to the confrontation, in terms of bringing humanitarian aid, would have been to bring it directly to Ashdod for the goods – the humanitarian aid – to have been off-loaded and taken to the border-crossing with Gaza, and then under the United Nations and the Red Cross – like everyone else is doing – to get the aid to the Palestinians – not to Hamas or Islamic Jihad or any other radical groups there, but to the Palestinian people who need this aid.”

The offer to allow aid into Gaza via Egypt was always on the table, as Israel claims. The reason why the organisers didn't use the offer was to spike the international provocation against the blockade, Gershon Baskin from the Israel-Palestine Centre for Research and Information believes.

“The aid that’s being brought in on the ship can be used by people of Gaza but there is no real humanitarian crisis – there are no people starving for lack of food or for lack of other supplies. The siege has been broken by the Turkish flotilla and the new Israeli policy is to allow goods into Gaza, most goods that will not create a danger for Israel.”

Ben Cohen from the advocacy group the American-Jewish Committee based in New York argues there is a political stunt behind the Libyan move and claims it simply wants to clean-up its reputation.

“This is a political equivalent of money laundering, but instead of washing dirty money you wash a blood-state reputation. Libya is one of the most repressive states on earth. And I don’t think it can claim any kind of humanitarian awards. It is a country that has had the lowest possible rating for human freedom from Freedom House – a respected New York think-tank that looks into these matters- it’s on a pair with North Korea, Saudi Arabia and other states where there is absolute contempt for democracy. And Libya obviously represses its own people. What better way than the cause of Palestinian solidarity to try and wash that reputation by homing in on alleged Israeli crimes?”

More RT analysis here